Trump Factor: Presidential Egotism Exposed


Let’s talk about Donald Trump.

I know. I know. Let’s not.

Enough, too much, had already been said about Trump. It’s like some giant blather-a-thon that just won’t stop, and it’s all threatening to make a mockery of the endless political process of polls, primaries, candidate announcements, insults and counter-insults, and debates leading up to the 2016 elections.

It’s hard to resist the mockery of a process that has become like an out-of-control fat person trying to put ON weight. After all, just last week, the 100th Republican — or is it 20 or 75? — declared that he would be a candidate for president. Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, who announced that he didn’t want to be someone, he wanted to do something. On the scale of slogans, it’s nicely niched in the sandwich made by “If you see something, say something.” Gilmore apparently saw a light that formed into a hologram of President James Gilmore, and so he said something.

But Trump is a special case — yet not because he’s a candidate for the Republican nomination. Given Trump’s long life in the same light of ambition, a Trump run for the Republican nomination, an idea with which he has teased or tortured us, lo, these many years, was not improbable. Fur would fly, we thought. Things better left unspoken would be spoken, and loudly. The banners unfurled — no apologies, no mercy, no sense might have made a good slogan for his campaign.

We should have known. He treated his announcement like the season-opening episode of “The Apprentice,” dragging in paying customers from the streets to attend, become immigration-basher in chief with outrageous comments about Mexico sending us criminals and rapists. People — especially those who make up the much-desired Latino vote — were upset, angry and beside themselves. There were consequences: NBC threw out “The Apprentice,” but not “American Ninja,” and two chefs in Washington cancelled their bid for restaurants in the Trump Hotel that is being constructing in the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue. These were the sorts of things that might cost Trump, who also shared with us the fact that he was really, really rich.

How can you top that? You attack Senator John McCain, claim he’s not a hero, and then backtrack on that one, and add, “He was captured. I don’t like people who are captured.”

Sen. Lindsay Graham, who’s so far back in the polls that people have forgotten to spell Benghazi, criticized Trump, and the Donald promptly gave out his (Graham’s) cell phone number during a speech.

It’s easy to mock Trump, to make fun of his hair, and to dismiss him.

You’d think with all that — plus insulting many of the people in the GOP race — that there would be some blowback. There has: Trump is up 26 percent in some polls.

Pundits will tell you it’s because he’s touched a nerve among some Americans, the ones who stand up and salute when somebody gives the government, not a thumbs up, but the finger. He’s touched a nativist, anti-immigration nerve, going as far back as the Know Nothing Party of long ago, which was hostile to Irish immigrants. He’s a strong man in a country of weak politicians. He says what he means and is mean in what he says.

There is probably some truth in that. McCain called his supporters “crazies,” to which Trump took offense. Call them what you will, they comprise a large enough portion of the GOP hardliners to make people like Rubio, Bush the younger and others nervous. The truth is that the path to the GOP nomination for any moderate-sounding, or rational-sounding, or reasonable-sounding Republican is through that block of voters. The only Republican running for president actually to attack Trump on immigration was Texas governor Rick Perry, a man not shy about saying outrageous things, who said Trump was a “cancer on conservatism.”

Trump hasn’t even asked for President Obama’s birth, or that of anyone else. He is, in the end, an egotist of the most extreme sort. It would be easy to ignore him, except you can’t — and shouldn’t. Can you take him seriously?

Somebody should. The Republicans are getting extremely nervous about Trump’s posturing and his rise in the polls. The word is that the Koch brothers have cut him off from access to their political database. Trump says he’s refused to take their money.

Every Trump supporter — an Ethiopian cab driver here, an Iraq vet there, an out-of-work man here, people troubled by the Iran deal, the trade deal, or the rise of Putin and ISIS, the folks getting killed here, not out there — use one word to describe Trump: strength. He stands up to politicians, to Washington, to Obama, to — I don’t know — the IRS, to regulations, to immigrants from Mexico.

They see Trump in populist terms, almost as if his were a rags-to-riches story instead of a riches-to-riches story. Here is a man who stands up there and tells people, “You know, I’m rich. Very rich.” Can he put America or his money to work? Well, he has promised Sarah Palin a job in his administration. One down, millions of jobs to go.

We’ll see soon enough. The first debate, with its first and second tiers, is about to start — with the Washington Redskins’ first preseason game coming seven days later.

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